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Monday, September 28, 2020

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Panhellenic Council resigns amid calls to abolish Greek Life

<p>The&nbsp;cottages are non-residential meeting areas for sororities on campus.</p>

The cottages are non-residential meeting areas for sororities on campus.

All of the members of the Panhellenic Council announced their resignations in a letter to Greek Life organization leaders today in light of the stories shared by the Abolish Richmond Greek Life Instagram page, according to a letter written by the Panhellenic Council obtained by The Collegian.

Rising senior and former Panhellenic Council president Maggie Castelli emailed the letter to the National Pan-Hellenic Council president, NPHC chapter presidents, Interfraternity Council members, IFC chapter presidents and Panhel chapter presidents at 12 p.m. today, she said. Castelli is currently in the process of disaffiliation from Pi Beta Phi, she said.

Letter written by former members of the 2020-21 Panhellenic Council announcing their resignation from leadership, obtained by The Collegian on Aug. 4. 

“We have read about and understand the violence against womxn on our campus that has occurred by Interfraternity Council chapter members and we no longer wish to be associated with the IFC community as leaders within Panhellenic,” the letter stated. “We have viewed the ways in which Panhellenic womxn, ourselves included, have contributed to continued segregation on our campus and the ways in which our community perpetrates this segregation.” 

The letter was signed by Castelli; rising senior Natalie Gillisse, former vice president of operations and member of Tri Delta; rising senior Maya Mandava, former vice president of recruitment education and member of Kappa Alpha Theta; rising senior Tatum Polite, former vice president of communications and member of Kappa Delta; rising senior Kat Mitchell, former vice president of programming and member of Kappa Kappa Gamma; and rising senior Anabella Escudero-Retana, former vice president of recruitment and Kappa member. 

The former council members also asked that the chapter presidents share the letter with their chapter members, according to the letter.

Gillisse, Mandava and Polite declined The Collegian’s request for comment. Escudero and Mitchell did not respond to The Collegian’s request for comment. The Collegian could not confirm whether these former council members will disaffiliate from their chapters as well.

Castelli said she had been considering disaffiliating since the Abolish Richmond Greek Life Instagram account was created but decided to stay until today because she had felt obligated to remain in a role that would allow her to reform Greek Life.

“I felt like maybe staying in this position would have been better for like, you know, making sure that my opinions are still heard in the community,” Castelli said. “But the conclusion that I've come to is that resigning is better, and that means that I can say what I believe rather than having it filtered out.” 

Castelli had been disheartened with national Greek Life organizations, she said. She also said she had had an eye-opening experience working with people who were employed by the University of Richmond during her tenure as council president.

“I don't think that reforms are possible,” Castelli said. “At least, I don't think that reforms that will actually improve the lives of students on our campus as quickly as they deserve are possible.” 

Castelli said her statements only represented her own feelings and she could not confirm the sentiments of the other former council members.

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The former council members sent an email to the Center for Student Involvement staff on July 30 announcing its resignation, Castelli said. 

Although there was no official process for resignation, all members of the Panhellenic Council had a group meeting with CSI Director Alison Keller and other CSI staff on July 29 to discuss their reasons for resigning, Castelli said. Castelli said she had felt supported by CSI in the resignation process.

Keller did not respond to The Collegian’s request for comment.

Castelli said she hoped the former council members’ resignation would cause Panhel and IFC members to think about the role of their organizations on campus.

“I feel like if I hadn't joined Greek Life I could have done a lot more good on campus and participated in a lot better ways to [make] our campus community positive rather than continuing to perpetuate harm,” Castelli said. 

This is not the first time members of the council have resigned in 2020. Former member of Delta Gamma and rising senior Emma Hoholik stepped down from her position as vice president of recruitment after racist epithets were written on students’ door tags in January, she said. 

“I'm really proud of these women who decided to do what they did,” Hoholik said. “I'm just hopeful that the administration will actually acknowledge everything that's going on, because it has been almost a month of basically students talking about violations of the university code and also violations of the law. 

“I'm just hopeful that if we continue with the same energy that is currently being displayed, that the administration can no longer ignore everything that's going on.”

Several people of color who recently disaffiliated from their Panhel sororities published a statement in support of the Greek Life abolition movement on the Abolish Richmond Greek Life Instagram page on July 28. Former member of Pi Phi and rising junior Zena Abro, one of the co-authors of the statement, said she thought the council members’ decision to resign was powerful and hoped the resignation would get a public response from UR’s administration.

“At the bare minimum, it would also just be good to hear from any admin,” Abro said, “just because there really has been nothing sent out to the general public.”

The former council members plan on posting a public announcement on the UR Panhellenic Instagram page at 7 p.m. today, according to the letter. 

IFC president Peter Corsiglia did not respond to The Collegian’s request for comment.

Associate director for Greek Life Meg Pevarski did not respond to The Collegian’s request for comment.

Greek Life coordinator Lisa McCoy did not respond to The Collegian’s request for comment.

Opinions and columns editor Conner Evans contributed to reporting. 

Contact news editor Jackie Llanos at jackie.llanoshernandez@richmond.edu.

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